Labour rights even weaker in TPP-11 than in the TPP-12

July 9, 2018: Canadian union leader Lana Payne, from the manufacturing union Unifor, has blasted the Canadian government for its claim that the Trans-Pacific Partnership – 11 is more “progressive” than the original TPP-12. Payne honed in on the labour chapter, which she argues is even weaker than in the original TPP-12, to make her point.

Originally drawn up by US negotiators, the TPP labour chapter includes legal tests that had already failed when used by a panel of arbitrators overseeing a historic labour dispute between the US and Guatemala. The panel found that none of the documented labour violations in Guatemala (including the murder of union organisers) occurred “in a manner affecting trade” or that the events in question were “sustained or recurring” — two critical tests outlined in the chapter. As a result, Guatemala faced no trade penalty or trade sanction.

Payne says that keeping these legal tests in the TPP-12 and TPP-11 makes it very unlikely that any government would be subjected to trade penalties if they violate labour rights.

Payne says that when the TPP-11 was settled in March this year, another specific TPP-12 clause was suspended. It had allowed government and other public entities that purchase goods and services to require contractors to comply with basic labour standards as a condition of procurement.

As well, the TPP-11 deleted ‘action plans’ or ‘side letters’ with Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam, initiated by the US, which required more organising and bargaining rights for workers in those countries. Payne says that overall, labour rights in the TPP-11 are weak, and in practice not legally enforceable in the same way as other chapters in the agreement.